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A Respectable Receptacle Replacement

February 16, 2012

Are you ready to do your first respectable receptacle replacement? (Say that fast three times) Did you check it with something you know works first? I mean, what if it was the lamp and not the receptacle? You’d feel pretty lame, wouldn’t you? Once you have determined that it really IS the receptacle – let’s move on.

(FYI – receptacle and outlet are interchangeable words here – do you remember from my other article that “a receptacle is an outlet where electricity exits the system through a plug” – so by plugging something in to the receptacle we are creating the outlet – whew – confusing – isn’t it?)

At the cost of sounding like your mother – here I go again. TURN OFF THE POWER!


  1. After you have TURNED OFF THE CURRENT, unscrew the outlet cover and remove the receptacle from the box in the wall.
  2. Check to see if the outlet is “switched” – this means does it turn on and off with a switch (as it does when there’s a lamp plugged into it). The best way to tell is to see if there are two different colored hot wires attached to the same receptacle. You need to look to see if the metal tab between the gold/brass (hot) screws has been removed. Looking at the receptacle face on, they are on the right side.
  3. As you complete #2, keep a note or diagram of how the wires are attached to the old receptacle.
  4. If you find that the outlet is switched, you will need to remove the tab between the hot terminals on the new receptacle. Be sure to put the wires back the same way they were on the receptacle you removed.
  5. Remove the wires from the terminal screws and attach the new receptacle in its place the same way. For a non-switch outlet, the green ground wire goes to the green screw; the white (neutral) wire(s) goes to the silver terminal(s); and the black (hot) wire goes to the gold terminal(s).
  6. Place the receptacle back in the hole and secure it with the screws.
  7. Replace the cover plate.
  8. Turn your electricity back on and check to see if you have current. If you don’t, try plugging in a lamp or hair dryer into the outlet to see if it turns on. If it doesn’t you can try starting over. If nothing works you will need to call in the expert. It may be more than what you can handle as a novice DIY’er.

A smart DIY woman will ask for help for any repair she doesn’t understand or that doesn’t work right. (Not just electrical).

To women holding hammers (and getting smart about electricity),

Jo Ellen Soesbee, The ToolBox TomGirl

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